By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST News Service, who has reported from inside of Iraq
LONDON, UK (ANS – July 6, 2016) – Former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, overstated the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, sent ill-prepared troops into battle and had “wholly inadequate” plans for the aftermath, the UK’s Iraq War inquiry has said.
Chairman Sir John Chilcot said the 2003 invasion was not the “last resort” action presented to British MPs and the public.
According to a report from the BBC, there was no “imminent threat” from Saddam Hussein – and the intelligence case was “not justified,” he said.
Mr. Blair apologized for any mistakes made but not the decision to go to war.
The report, which has taken seven years, is on the Iraq Inquiry website (http://www.iraqinquiry.org.uk/).
The BBC went on to say that the present Prime Minister, David Cameron, who will soon leave his office, and voted for war in 2003, told MPs it was important to “really learn the lessons for the future” and to improve the workings of government and how it treats legal advice.
And he added: “Sending our brave troops on to the battlefield without the right equipment was unacceptable and, whatever else we learn from this conflict, we must all pledge this will never happen again.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – who voted against military action – said the report proved the Iraq War had been an “act of military aggression launched on a false pretext,” something he said which has “long been regarded as illegal by the overwhelming weight of international opinion.”
After meeting relatives of British service people killed in Iraq, Mr. Corbyn said: “I now apologize sincerely on behalf of my party for the disastrous decision to go to war.”
He urged the UK to back moves to give the International Criminal Court “the power to prosecute those responsible for the crime of military aggression.”
The BBC said, “A spokesman for some of the families of the 179 British service personnel and civilians killed in Iraq between 2003 and 2009 said their loved ones had died ‘unnecessarily and without just cause and purpose.’”
The spokesman added that all options were being considered, including asking those responsible for the failures identified in the report to “answer for their actions in the courts if such process is found to be viable.”
Tony Blair responds to report
In a statement to the media, his voice at times cracking with emotion, the former Labour Prime Minister said the decision to commit troops was the “most agonizing and momentous” decision in his decade as prime minister, adding that he would “carry it with me for the rest of my days.”
He added, “I feel deeply and sincerely in a way that no words can properly convey the grief and sorrow of those who lost ones they loved in Iraq – whether our armed forces, the armed forces of other nations or Iraqis.
“The intelligence assessments made at the time of going to war turned out to be wrong, the aftermath turned out to be more hostile, protracted and bloody than ever we imagined…. and a nation whose people we wanted to set free from the evil of Saddam became instead victims of sectarian terrorism.
“For all of this, I express more sorrow, regret and apology than you may ever know or can believe.”
But, said the BBC, he was “defiant” on the central decision to go to war, saying “there were no lies, Parliament and Cabinet were not misled, there was no secret commitment to war, intelligence was not falsified and the decision was made in good faith.”
Information on the report (supplied by the BBC:
Sir John Chilcot, an ex-civil servant who chaired the inquiry, describes the Iraq War as an intervention that went “badly wrong” with consequences still being felt to this day – and he set out lessons to be learned for future conflicts.
His lengthy report, which is 2.6 million words, does not make a judgement on whether Mr. Blair or his ministers were in breach of international law.
But it does highlight a catalogue of errors in political and military decision-making, including:
* UK military commanders made “over-optimistic assessments” of their capabilities which had led to “bad decisions”
* There was “little time” to properly prepare three military brigades for deployment in Iraq. The risks were neither “properly identified nor fully exposed” to ministers, resulting in “equipment shortfalls”
* Policy on the Iraq invasion was made on the basis of flawed intelligence assessments. It was not challenged, and should have been
* Mr. Blair overestimated his ability to influence US decisions on Iraq; and the UK’s relationship with the US does not require unconditional support
The BBC reported that previously classified documents, including 31 personal memos from Tony Blair to then US president George W Bush, have been published alongside the Chilcot Report.
They show that momentum in Washington and London towards taking action against Saddam Hussein quickly began to build in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in 2001 in the US, which killed nearly 3,000 people.
On the day after the attack on New York’s Twin Towers, Mr. Blair sent a note to President Bush offering his support to bring to justice the hijackers and looked ahead to the “next stage after this evil.”
Mr. Blair said some would “baulk” at the measures necessary to control “biological, chemical and other weapons of mass destruction,” but added: “We are better to act now and explain and justify our actions than let the day be put off until some further, perhaps even worse, catastrophe occurs.”
The memos reveal that Mr. Blair and Mr. Bush were openly discussing toppling Saddam Hussein as early as December 2001, when the UK and US had just launched military action in Afghanistan.
“How we finish in Afghanistan is important to phase 2. If we leave it a better country, having supplied humanitarian aid and having given new hope to the people, we will not just have won militarily but morally; and the coalition will back us to do more elsewhere,” says Mr. Blair in the memo.
“We shall give regime change a good name which will help in our arguments over Iraq.”
In another memo, from July 2002 – nearly a year before the invasion of Iraq – Mr. Blair assured President Bush that the UK would be with him “whatever,” but adds that if Mr. Bush wanted a wider military coalition he would have to get UN backing, make progress on Middle East peace and engineer a “shift” in public opinion in the US, UK and the Arab World.
Sir John echoes the criticisms made in earlier reports into the Iraq War of the use of intelligence about Saddam’s alleged weapons of mass destruction to justify war.
It says the assessed intelligence had not established “beyond doubt” that Saddam Hussein had continued to produce chemical and biological weapons.
Of Mr. Blair’s September 2002 statement warning that Saddam Hussein had an arsenal of biological and chemical weapons that could be launched within 45 minutes of the command to use them, Sir John says: “The judgements about Iraq’s capabilities in that statement, and in the dossier published on the same day, were presented with a certainty that was not justified.”
On the eve of war, Mr. Blair told MPs that he judged that the possibility of terror groups in possession of weapons of mass destruction was a “real and present danger to Britain and its national security.”
“Mr. Blair had been warned, however, that military action would increase the threat from al-Qaeda to the UK and UK interests. He had also been warned that an invasion might lead to Iraq’s weapons and capabilities being transferred into the hands of terrorists,” said Sir John.
The legality of the war
The then attorney general Lord Goldsmith advised Mr. Blair to seek explicit UN authorization for military action but when diplomatic efforts failed, informed him that intervention was lawful on the basis of previous UN resolutions on Iraq relating back to the 1991 Gulf War.
The report acknowledged that the initial campaign to overthrow Saddam was successful and praised the “great courage” of service personnel and civilians involved during and after the invasion, which led to the deaths of more than 200 UK nationals and at least 150,000 Iraqis.
But the report adds that Britain’s military role “ended a very long way from success” and it was “humiliating” that British troops was reduced to doing deals with a local militia group in Basra, releasing captured militants in return for an end to attacks on British forces.
Photo captions: 1) Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war. 2) Sir John Chilcot speaking. 3) Tony Blair with British troops in Iraq. 4) Tony Blair with George W. Bush in the grounds of the White House. 5) Dan Wooding reporting from outside of the Kurdistan Parliament in Erbil, Northern Iraq, for ANS.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 75, is an award-winning winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for some 53 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder and international director of the ASSIST News Service (ANS), and is also the author of some 45 books. In addition, Dan has a radio program and two TV shows all based in Southern California. He has reported from around the world, including from North Korea, and also from inside of Northern Iraq.
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